|Introduction & Specifications|
Digital designers and video editors will tell you that one display is often not enough. With so many different tool and palette windows, a single display can get crowded very quickly, leaving little room for the primary workspace. Add some other apps to the equation, such as e-mail and Web browsers, and you can wind up with a desktop drowning in windows. But another full-sized display is not always a practical solution for such users: A second display might represent a prohibitive expense or it simply might not fit on a desk that has limited space. Perhaps even more importantly, many systems simply lack a second video-port (or even lack the ability to swap out a graphics card, such as with laptops), making it impossible to add a second monitor that uses a traditional VGA or DVI input.
The lack of a second video-port was one of the key inspirations behind the DisplayLink technology, which allows systems to send their video signals to displays over a USB 2.0 connection. DisplayLink support has been showing up in a growing collection of display products, such as monitors, projectors, docking stations, and adapters (such as USB-to-DVI adapters). One of the display types that DisplayLink folks have been talking about for a while now, are small, 7-inch LCD panels--similar in size and shape to a digital photo frame. Such a small-format display could potentially meet the needs of those who seek the extra screen real-estate, but who either can't afford to buy another full-sized monitor or perhaps don't have the room for one. These 7-inch displays could also be the perfect accessory for those who constantly monitor stock or news feeds, or for those who like to keep their IM clients or social-networking feeds close at hand, but not necessarily taking center stage.
We're still waiting for the DisplayLink-powered, small-format displays from Samsung and D-Link--both vendors have promised that their products are on the horizon; in the meantime, the first such displays to hit U.S. shores are from Nanovision in the form of the Mimo UM-710 and Mimo UM-740 displays. Both are LCDs with 7-inches of viewable area that can be set for either horizontal (portrait) or vertical (landscape) viewing. They both use DisplayLink technology to receive video signals from Windows or Mac systems via USB connections; and they both are also USB-bus powered as well, so they don't have power supplies that need to be plugged into wall sockets. They share a number of differences as well, most importantly, the UM-740 includes touch-screen support, while the UM-710 does not.
Mimo UM-710 MSRP: $129.99
Mimo UM-740 MSRP: $199.00
In addition to the UM-740's touch-screen capabilities, it also includes an integrated webcam, microphone, and headphone-out features. Despite these and some aesthetic differences between the UM-740 and the UM-710, they both weigh only about 1.3-pounds.
|Design, Build Quality, & Connectivity|
The Mimo UM-710 monitor is only about 0.8-inches thick, and measures 7.7x4.8-inches (HxD). The Mimo-740 is only a few millimeters thicker (but still well under 1-inch thick) and it is also a hair taller and deeper at 7.75x5.0-inches. Both monitors come with removable stands that attach to the back of the displays. The stands can lean the monitors forward and backward, but doing so beyond a fairly limited range will cause the top-heavy design to either topple forward or backward. By loosening the mounting screw on the back of the stand, the monitors can be pivoted into either landscape or portrait mode (note: that you have to manually change the display settings in software in order for the image on the display to be properly oriented). With the monitors oriented vertically, the top of the viewable area of the displays is about 9.3-inches up from the surface the stands are resting on.
Both monitors have glossy black bezels, but you would never confuse the two. The UM-710 has soft rounded corners, while the UM-740 has square corners. The UM-740 also has a 1.3-megapixel webcam located on the upper-left side of the bezel, and a labeled microphone ("mic") hole on the lower-right side of the bezel. The UM-740 also features three touch-sensitive control buttons on the lower-right bottom of the bezel. The UM-710's control buttons are mechanical buttons that are located on the right side of the monitor. The controls on both monitors are very rudimentary: a power button, and "+" and "-" buttons that increase or decrease the display's brightness setting. Unlike, larger more-mainstream displays, the Mimo monitors do not include any additional settings or any sort of on-screen displays (OSD).
The UM-710 has only a single input--a mini-USB (type B) connector--which is located in a recess at the bottom of the back of the unit. The UM-740 has a similar recess on its backside, but in addition to the mini-USB connection, the UM-740 also includes stereo-in and mic-out audio mini jacks. (The UM-740 also has a power jack, which the manual identifies as an "emergency power input... for factory or technical service purposes only.") The UM-740 comes with a pair of audio cables so that you can route audio-out from your system to the monitor, and route the monitor's microphone to your system. Note that the UM-740 does not have speakers--it has a headphone jack located on the left side of the monitor--so if you route your system's audio to the UM-740, you will only be able to hear the audio with headphones plugged into the monitor.
Both displays also ship with a USB cable that has a mini-USB jack on one end, and a pair of standard Type-A USB jacks on the other end. The reason why there are two USB connectors on the system end of the cable is that since the Mimo monitors are entirely USB powered, they might not get enough juice from some systems from a single USB connection--this is even more of a potential issue with the UM-740, which requires more power for its touch-screen. That said, we had no problems powering either Mimo monitor from a single USB connection on either of our test systems.
|Image Quality & Performance|
|We lived with the monitors for several weeks, connected to two different systems that were running Windows Vista and the Mac OS, respectively. We used the Mimo monitors for a number of purposes, such as a secondary home for our Photoshop palettes, our IM clients, and for our Twitter feed using Twhirl. Our Windows Vista desktop was an HP Pavilion Elite m9550f desktop (2.5GHz Intel Core 2 Quad Q9300, 8GB PC2-6400 DDR2 SDRAM, 1TB NTFS 7200RPM SATA hard drive, ATI Radeon HD 4850 512MB, Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 64-bit); and our Mac desktop was a 24-inch iMac (2.8GHz Intel Core 2 Duo, 4GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM, 750GB 7200RPM SATA hard drive, ATI Radeon HD 2600 256MB, Mac OS X 10.5.6).
Even though the Mimo monitors are not in the same league as larger, more-expensive displays, we still ran a few of the more important tests from Everest Ultimate Edition's Monitor Diagnostic Tools. Both displays actually did surprisingly well on most of the test screens. Both lost some detail at the far end of the black and white spectrums, respectively, but all in-between gray tones were easily identifiable. Both displays also suffered from some slight moiré patterns on screens with lots of fine horizontal or vertical lines; but it was not as noticeable as it typically is with larger-sized LCD monitors. Even text was easily readable on the displays.
Where the Mimo monitors faltered somewhat, however, was in their color accuracy. Both displays suffered from a slight blue color shift--which was more noticeable with the UM-740 than it was with the UM-710. We also found the UM-740 to sometimes appear grainy when displaying images with static, solid colors. The UM-740's matte display also seemed a bit muted at times, especially when compared to the UM-710's glossy display. While both displays are rated at 350cd/m2, the UM-710 seemed like it emitted a crisper and brighter image.
We also tried playing back some videos on the displays and were pleasantly surprised to see very little lag or ghosting. Due to the small size of the displays, however, we would not recommend using them much for watching videos. In terms of more mundane, everyday usage, we found that the Mimo monitors did very well at providing an off-the-main-screen home for some of our secondary apps, windows, and tools.
The UM-710 and UM-740 both require drivers to be installed on Windows and Mac systems. The UM-740 also requires an additional driver for its touch-screen capabilities; the Windows touch-screen driver is included with the device, but the Mac touch-screen driver is a $30 option.
On Windows systems, the Mimo monitors are controlled via a DisplayLink Manager app, which is accessed via the taskbar. The DisplayLink Manager allows you to choose whether the Mimo monitor will extend the desktop or mirror the primary display; where the Mimo monitor's extended desktop will be positioned, relative to the primary display (options are right, left, above, and below), and which way the screen is rotated (options are normal, rotated left, rotated right, and upside-down). As long as the Mimo monitor is displaying in the horizontal position, you can also use Windows's Display Settings to micro-adjust the Mimo monitor's position relative to your primary display. When displaying in the vertical position, however, you lose the ability to choose exactly where you want to extend the desktop. Things are actually a little easier on the Mac side, where all changes such as orientation and relative positing are done though the Mac OS's System Preferences / Displays settings; and on the Mac you can micro-adjust the relative postioning of the extended desktop with the Mimo monitor in both the horizontal and vertical postions.
When the Mimo monitors are in the horizontal position their resolution is 800x480; when they are in the vertical position, their resolution is 480x800. We found that whenever we switched the orientation of the UM-740, we had to recalibrate the touch-screen settings in order to get it to properly register touch input. You control the UM-740's settings via the UPPD Console app--which is accessed via the taskbar on Windows, or via a desktop shortcut on Macs. The Mac version of the UPDD Console application is nearly identical to the Windows version in terms of looks, options, and functionality. We found, however, that the only setting we regularly used in the UPPD Console was actually just the Calibration function.
The touch-screen worked relatively well, but we occasionally found that the display momentarily lost input, as though we had taken our finger off the display. We also found that the touch-screen input felt somewhat jagged to us--by this we mean that when we performed an action such as dragging a window, the window would actually bounce a bit while we moved it. The screenshot below shows a good example of how the UM-740's touch-screen interpreted what we thought were relatively straight lines.
The UM-740's 1.3-megapixel webcam provided an acceptable image, but we found it to be slightly grainier and darker than other Webcams we've used. Also, the webcam can really only be used when the display is in the horizontal position. When the display is in the vertical position, images captured by the webcam appear sideways--the webcam's orientation does not change when the display's ortientation does. Both the integrated microphone and headphone-out produced decent-sounding audio.
|Summary & Conclusions|
Both the UM-710 and UM-740 monitors did a great job of giving us a little bit of extra screen real estate without using too much of our precious physical desktop space. We found the displays especially beneficial when housing palette windows during photo editing with Photoshop, keeping track of who was available for IMs, and for following our friends' Tweets. We found the image quality of both displays to be more than acceptable for these tasks, with the UM-710 edging out the UM-740 with a slightly brighter and crisper-looking image. And while both monitor suffered from a slight blue color shift, this never significantly impacted how we were actually utilizing the displays.
Ultimately, we found little practical use for the UM-740's touch-screen feature. We found it easier to continue using our mouse or tablet to access the screen's contents, as we were already actively using these other input devices as we went about our typical computing tasks. Other users, with different needs, however, might find more practical use for the UM-740's touch-screen capabilities. The problem, however, is that with the touch-screen feature, webcam, and microphone, the UM-740's price is just shy of $200; you can easily get a 19-inch LCD monitor for that price or less--and as LCD prices continue to drop, you can even find some budget 20-inch and larger LCD monitors in that price range. Unless you truly need these extra features, the $129.99 UM-710 is a much better value.
Currently the UM-710 and UM-740 monitors are available in the U.S. from only two sources: Mimo Monitors and The Gadgeteers. If you are interested in the UM-740, unfortunately, you're currently out of luck as it is out of stock from both sources. Nanovision was unable to supply us with a definitive time frame as to when the UM-740 will once again be available in the U.S.--a Nanovision spokesperson could only offer that it is presently available "overseas." The UM-710, however, is presently available from both U.S. sources.